Stopover in Seoul/Incheon

History, shopping, cuisine and cultural icons make these diverse Korean cities a must-see, either for a standalone Korea visit or a stopover on the way to Australia, says Martin Steady

Day 1: The heart and Seoul of it

Morning: Start with an aromatic brew at a traditional tea house.
Use the caffeine boost to summit the top of the city’s most iconic landmark, the N Seoul Tower. Rising approximately 1,574 feet above sea level, it is the highest point in Seoul and offers unobstructed views of the city and surrounding Namsan Mountain.

Soeul market

Afternoon: No trip to Asia is complete without a visit to a chaotic food market – and for us it was the Gwangjang Market. What began as a small trading centre selling local goods is now a thriving wholesale market. The street food on offer is a big draw. Point at the seafood in the tanks and five minutes later one of its residents is freshly served to you.

Soeul palace

Allow plenty of time to visit the outstanding Gyeongbokgung Palace, which dates back to 1395 and was the main Joseon Dynasty palace until the 1910 Japanese occupation. Embrace this historical monument by hiring “Hanbok” traditional Korean costume – which also gives you free entry – and take in the museums, ornamental gardens and impressive architecture.

Evening: With a ‘gogi-jip’ (meat house) on just about every corner, famous Korean BBQ is everywhere. Finish the night with a sing-song in a ‘noraebang’, a Korean-style karaoke room.

Day 2: Incheon: a modern world

Morning: Start the day with a leisurely boat ride along Incheon’s ultra-modern kilometre-long Songdo Canal Walk, located near Songdo Central Park. The area is largely pedestrianized and dominated by residential and business skyscrapers. Stop at one of the many coffee shops and people watch for a while.

Afternoon: Time for some serious shopping at Hyundai Premium Outlet Songdo and Triple Street, with over 300 brands represented alongside restaurants. For non-shoppers there’s a ‘Megabox’ for letting off steam, including trampoline, VR, and a range of indoor sporting options.

Or visit the Hyundai Motorstudio Goyang, the largest automobile theme park in Korea. Visitors will learn about how cars are manufactured and take a look into the future of the automobile industry.

Soeul food 1

Evening: Explore Sinpo Market, which dates back to the late 19th century. A must-try is the Dak-gangjeong crispy fried chicken coated with a sweet and spicy sauce.

Top tip: Incheon Airport offers several free ‘Transit Tours’ for stopover passengers. Ranging from one to five hours’ duration, they feature cultural attractions, shopping, nature and even a DMZ (Demilitarized Zone) visit which explores ‘The Third Tunnel’ that separates South and North Korea.